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Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Sheriff

There was great relief in Oriental when we learned that the County Sheriff's Department had arrested the alleged perpetrators of a number of recent break-ins and thefts in and around Oriental. That's good news.

Less good is the thought that it was the Sheriff's Office, headquartered in Bayboro, that broke the case instead of our own one-man police department. There are a number of possible conclusions that could be drawn:
1. Our police chief is ineffective;
2. A one-man police department isn't adequate to the task;
3. Oriental should expand its police department;
4. Oriental should close its police department and rely on the County Sheriff for law enforcement.

I have thought about our options and conclude that ours is the worst of all possible arrangements. We would be better off if we hired additional police officers, acquired additional police vehicles (bicycle? motorcycle?), and provided a suitable office from which the force could work. The downside is that it would be more expensive.

Alternatively, we would arguably be better off if we closed our one-man police department and turned enforcement over to the Sheriff. That approach also has a downside: the limited number of deputies available to the Sheriff to cover a large and sparsely populated county. Furthermore, in the absence of a specific inter local agreement, the Sheriff is unlikely to enforce Oriental's municipal ordinances.

In either event, The Town of Oriental should consider inter local agreements to establish procedures for exchanging information between town and county officials, including police reports. I believe we should also establish clear procedures wherein our citizens would summon help by calling 911, whatever the emergency. It would be up to our own police force to keep the dispatcher informed at all times of our officers' whereabouts, duty status, and how they can be reached. Citizens shouldn't have to hunt down the person on duty.

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